The past week has been a large week in terms of COVID-19 news, with a new vaccine deemed largely effective, expansion on those eligible for vaccinations and record cases. Here are the top COVID stories of the past week:
United States COVID-19 death toll passes 500,000
The United States officially surpassed 500,000 deaths from COVID-19 on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. President Biden is calling this a “heartbreaking milestone,” ordering flags on all federal buildings to be lowered to half-staff for the next five days.
FDA says Johnson & Johnson vaccine is effective, offers strong protection against COVID
The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) released an analysis on Monday that stated the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is highly effective at preventing a strong case of COVID-19. This vaccine was declared 85% effective in preventing a severe case, and has a key difference from the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine: it only requires one dose and can be stored at normal refrigeration temperatures. Johnson & Johnson said that they will be able to produce 20 million doses by the end of March, and an estimated 100 million doses over the summer. An FDA committee will meet on Friday to discuss whether to give approval for emergency approval.
Louisiana expands those eligible for COVID-19 vaccine
The Louisiana Dept. of Health announced more than 500,000 people are now eligible to receive the vaccine. Those who are now eligible are teachers, pregnant women, and those ages 55-64 with certain health conditions. 501 vaccine providers will receive doses in Louisiana, including seven CVS pharmacies, which will provide vaccinations starting Thursday.
New COVID strain identified in New York City
A new coronavirus variant is spreading rapidly in New York. The variant is identified as B.1.526 and was first identified in November 2020. Data shows that this variant has been present in 12% of coronavirus samples collected in the greater New York City area. Researchers at Columbia and Caltech are studying this strain, and are saying that this variant could dampen the effectiveness of the current vaccines.